The Sinn Fein TD for Cork North Central, Jonathan O’Brien, has made some very important points about social networking and the deaths of teenagers.
Hannah Smith, aged 14, from Leicestershire in England, was found hanged in her bedroom. Her father said she had been savagely bullied on the question-and answer website Ask.fm which is based in Riga, Latvia.
Two girls in this country, Ciara Pugsley, 14, and Erin Gallagher, 13, killed themselves last September and November, after repeated anonymous bullying on the same site.
The Government here has already called for the site to be investigated. David Cameron wants people to boycott it, and big brand advertisers have started to shun the site.
This could put it out of business. Look what happened the News of the World when it became greedy and irresponsible. But will that help solve the problem?
Cameron has called for moral persuasion, but the Sinn Fein deputy’s argument goes deeper.
Deputy O’Brien wants young people to be educated about what they are doing, as well as making sites more accountable.
He says that in January Sinn Féin introduced a bill that would have updated the existing school bullying guidelines to include cyber-bullying, but it was not supported by the Government.
Guidelines on cyber-bullying for young people are important. These sites can be an extension of the playground, and carry with them the innocent fun, and the truth-or-dare game that goes with that world.
It’s an adult-free place to hang out, but it’s more dangerous than real life contact because when it goes sour it becomes vicious, because of the anonymity. We are all braver when we don’t have to come face-to-face with our adversary. Get young people to confront each other face-to-face in a training environment and they will learn about themselves.